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Change Starts Here

April 29, 2010

During my senior year of college, I participated in a program focused on getting young women involved in politics. I had the amazing luck of attending college in Boston, and got to spend a semester at the Massachusetts’ State House interning for the most amazing woman (in mine and many other’s opinions) to serve the Commonwealth. As we spoke one day, she asked if I had ever considered running for office. I shrugged and said maybe later in life, but probably not. Who would take me seriously? She smiled and told me to do it, and not to wait. If I didn’t run, then who would?

She was right, and with so many amazing organizations out there that are dedicated to helping women run and win, why not? Bringing women to the table in government is an important part of creating gender equality (you’d be loathe to claim we already have it). A study done by Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics shows that across the board women of either party, of varying races and ideology play a more active role in policy and agenda shaping. They are more likely to support issues of women’s rights, health care, children and families, and they are more likely to bring citizens into the process.

 At a time in our nation when we are struggling with health care reform, paid maternity leave is still not required by law, women still do not earn equal pay to men and reproductive rights are being restricted more every day, shouldn’t women – who these laws effect the most –be making the laws we want to address our needs? Of course we should. However, if women don’t run for office, then women can’t win.

A majority of women, the Rep. previously mentioned included, get involved in politics by accident. They have kids, become involved with the PTA, run for school board, and so the story goes. A majority of women also need to be asked to run for office. While discussing this blog post with Lisa she laughed and said she liked to be begged. And so consider this my plea, if you are a woman and have the desire to, will you please run for office? You will be brilliant, you will be fabulous, and you will make a difference.

More women also need to start voting for women. If Hillary Clinton’s 2008 race taught us anything, it’s that women aren’t turning out to vote for other women. The same could be said for Martha Coakley’s loss to Scott Brown in Massachusetts. If there’s not a woman in the race you identify with, then vote for a man who you think will stand for you and with you on issues important to women. After all, it is a man’s world unless women vote.

Women account for half of our nation’s population. Yet, women make up only 16.8 % of the US House of Representatives, 17% of the US Senate and 32% of President Obama’s cabinet. A recent study done by the White House Project shows that there needs to be a critical mass of women involved at all levels in order to make a change. We’re at 17% and we need to get to 33%, don’t you think it’s time we got to work?

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